Betting in Texas Holdem

A bet is a declaration that either:

  • "I have the best hand and I'll wager money on it" or
  • "You have a poor hand and you will fold if you are forced to wager on it."

Typically, players are supposed to bet when they have a good hand. Players who don't have good hands are supposed to fold to bets. Of course, if it was this simple, there would be no need for the cards. You might as well wager on Tic-Tac-Toe. Most players play contrary to this idea, attempting to be a cunning or deceptive player. Don't fall into this trap when you are just learning to play.

Your betting strategy should be built upon the simple idea of betting when strong and folding when weak. You must also know when to stray and bet in situations when you otherwise wouldn't. Here are some situations you should start looking at to improve your game:

Blind Stealing

When you are in a strong position and it is folded to you, a raise is often called "blind-stealing". This is because the blinds may fold, whereas if you didn't raise but simply called, the blinds would simply check. It's a good way to make a buck or two, but will never make you rich. It is more of a way to end the hand fast and have a new hand dealt with more players, or to build a pot where you'll have good position.

Stealing

If you are last to act and it is checked to you, betting to steal the pot is a common move. Don't use this automatically, as better players will catch on quickly and begin reraising your poor hands. It is great to steal when you have a drawing hand since players tend to "check to the raiser". That's called semi-bluffing. It's nice because if you hit your hand, you now have a larger pot to win. If you don't, you can always check the turn and hope the river makes your hand. This is sometimes called "buying a free card".

Check Raising

Check raising is checking to your opponent, with the intention of luring them to bet, so that you can raise them back. Your intention is to lure them into a false sense of security so that you can raise them and increase the pot. It's a strong move that can be used as a complicated bluff or just to extricate more value from a powerful hand.

Doubling Up the Bet

This limit poker move is adding another bet on top of a nearby early raiser. This forces players to face two bets at once, instead of one. It's handy for those games where everyone limps in with little pairs and suited connectors. It's typically used with strong hands that are good heads-up. This ends up translating to the simple strategy of betting your strong hands though.

Squeezing

Squeezing is a no limit/pot limit tactic used against a raise by one player, a call by a second, where you bet hard over the top of both. The idea is that the first person will be intimidated because he's out of betting position against two players. Meanwhile the second player only called the first raise, so his hand must not be particularly strong. It's definitely a play you do not make routinely. Picking out spots to squeeze is a fine art and if done improperly, can cost you a lot of money.

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